Here’s a review for the curious of the 17-years-in-the-making Guns n’ Roses album, Chinese Democracy. The reviewer, our own esteemed Josh Tyrangiel (who also happens to run this website so no snarky comments, or at least not too many) doesn’t get into the merits of Axl Rose’s political commentary and we have already posted the lyrics to the eponymous song, which speak for themselves, fairly incoherently. As a bonus, here’s a piece about how fans of 枪花 (literally “gun flower’) in China will have to hold off on buying the album, at least the physical album, as it has been predictably blocked from sale in China. (Actually, I realize no that the piece is behind a paywall at the Wall Street Journal so will post part of it here:
The heavy metal band Guns N’ Roses is roiling China’s music scene. But sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll aren’t the issue.
The trouble is the name of the group’s latest album: “Chinese Democracy.”
China’s government-owned music-importing monopoly has signaled that local record distributors shouldn’t bother ordering the GN’R production. Anything with “democracy” in the name is “not going to work,” said an official at the China National Publications Import & Export (Group) Corp., part of the Ministry of Culture.
For fans, the response is more complicated. GN’R developed a major following in China in the late 1980s, when the young Mr. Rose was recording early hit songs like “Welcome to the Jungle.” China was in the throes of its own rebellious era, and heavy metal was its protest music. GN’R's popularity soared in the wake of the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators. Learning the band’s 1991 ballad “Don’t Cry” was a rite of passage for a generation of Chinese guitarists.
Some Chinese artists, loath to be branded as democracy campaigners, declined valuable offers to help illustrate the album. “I listened to their music when I was little,” says Beijing visual artist Chen Zhuo . He was “very glad” when GN’R asked to buy rights to use his picture of Tiananmen Square rendered as an amusement park — with Mao Zedong’s head near a roller coaster. Then, Mr. Chen looked at lyrics of the album’s title song and, after consulting with his lawyer and partner, declined the band’s $18,000 offer. “We have to take political risks into account as artists in China,” says the 30-year-old.
The new album’s title track, already released as a single, begins with eerie, high-pitched noises that sound vaguely like chattering in Chinese. In the song’s three verses, Mr. Rose sings of “missionaries,” “visionaries” and “sitting in a Chinese stew.”
The overall message is unclear, but his most provocative lines aren’t. “Blame it on the Falun Gong. They’ve seen the end and you can’t hold on now,” Mr. Rose sings. It is a reference to the spiritual movement that Beijing has outlawed as an “illegal cult” and vowed to crush.
Mr. Rose, 46, who is the only remaining original member of GN’R, is rarely interviewed and declined to comment for this article. He picked the new album’s name more than a decade ago. In a 1999 television appearance, he discussed the thinking behind it.
“Well, there’s a lot of Chinese democracy movements, and it’s something that there’s a lot of talk about, and it’s something that will be nice to see. It could also just be like an ironic statement. I don’t know, I just like the sound of it,” Mr. Rose said.
Mr. Rose in recent years has visited Chinese cities including Beijing, Shanghai and Xian, and he worries he won’t be let back in, says his assistant, Beta Lebeis. “Everything is so controlled,” she says.
Poor Axl. Should have thought of that before you decided on a name for the album, particularly as it was only because you “liked the sound”. Could have gone with “Eskimo Democracy”. That has a certain ring to it, no?